Slugging is informal carpooling unique to large cities that has been around for decades. Drivers pick up two “slugs” from assigned slug lines and they all ride into Arlington and Washington, DC for free on HOV/HOT lanes.
Yes, slugs get into cars with people they don’t know – something my parents always warned me against as a child.
Since people swear by this system, I jumped at the opportunity to try slugging for myself when Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP) announced its Third Annual Amazing Commute Race. Turns out it’s a really cool thing. The fact that my slug commute was judged best overall commute in the race only adds cache.
What is Slugging Exactly?
Slugging might seem like hitchhiking but it has its own strict etiquette and behavior. Before you jump in the first car that pulls up, here are some things you should know.
- Slugging has been around since the 1970s.
- No money changes hands.
- There are assigned slug lines.
- There are rules and the rules must be followed!
- This might change your commuting life.
Do your research
I did a crash course on slugging before our Amazing Commute Race to find my starting and ending points and review the rules. I determined my starting point and discovered that I would go to the Pentagon and take Metro from there to the ATP office. I used a few different resources to help me learn these details:
Most slug line locations begin south of Arlington, along I-95 in Fredericksburg, Stafford and Woodbridge and end in Arlington and DC. You won’t necessarily find a location right next to your home and your office the way you can bus stops, so familiarize yourself with the routes. You may need to still get on a bus or Metro to complete your journey. And be sure to sign up for Guaranteed Ride Home, so you have a commute safety net.
Armed with the rules and my route plan, I bravely headed off to the wilds of Springfield. When I arrived at the slug line, I located a sign that said “Carpool Staging Area” and saw two women standing under it. When I asked if I was in the right place, I was immediately asked if I knew the rules of slugging. They are serious about them. Be sure to read up – the first rule is to not speak unless the driver speaks to you.
It’s an amazingly smooth process. People line up, cars arrive and the first two people in line jump in the first car. Once in my car, I felt a bit awkward not talking at all. I definitely enjoyed zipping past the stopped traffic in the lanes next to us as we cruised up the HOV lanes to the Pentagon. If I lived someplace where I could easily get to a slug line, this would definitely be at the top of my commute options list.
Plan for Flexible Commuting
Slugging is an easy commute option because there is no commitment and no fee. If you want a free ride as a slug or a quick trip as the driver living near a slug line, it’s a win-win option.
Be sure to have a backup plan in place if you are a slug. You might find yourself needing to get home before the afternoon/evening slug rush has begun. Sign up for Guaranteed Ride Home now, before you even pick your slug location. You may never need those four annual free rides home, but the peace of mind is worth everything.
Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/Kittner.com for Arlington Transportation Partners